Cucurbita maxima was probably the first of the cucurbit family to be domesticated after originating in temperate South America from C. andreana, which is native to Argentina and Uruguay. The earliest remains, found in Peru, have been dated back to 1800 B.C. Seeds of related plants have even been found to date back to 5500 B.C.!
Eventually, the North American Indians began to cultivate pumpkins. They used it as a primary food source and even used the dried blossoms to thicken soups. By the 16th century, after the white settlers had come to America, the pumpkin had reached Europe and became popular to the rest of the world shortly after.
Pumpkins are grown on six of the seven continents, excluding Antarctica. They are even grown in Alaska. Morton, Illinois has actually become the self-proclaimed "Pumpkin Capital of the World".
Pumpkins prefer warmer temperature and are sensitive to frost. They flower from July to September and seeds ripen from August to October to avoid the coldest months. During the growing season, they generally require a temperature from 20 to 27 degrees Celsius. However, pumpkins can be grown at slightly cooler temperatures than this.
Pumpkins prefer as much sunlight as possible. The leaves should be provided with maximum sunshine to support photosynthesis. The more surface area exposed to sunlight, the better! This will provide larger fruit. Also, more sunlight throughout the day will minimize the time dew remains on the plant, which can prevent disease and bacterial wilt due to the moisture.
A fairly neutral soil is required for pumpkins with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. They can tolerate up to 6.8, but grow best slightly below it because it will prefer an acidic soil over a basic soil. Plenty of composted manure is also a beneficial component in the soil that provides nutrients for the growing plant. Its roots dig deeply into the soil to find these nutrients as well as the abundance of water it needs.
Crop rotation has become an important process when growing not just pumpkins, but any crops. If possible, the same crops should not be grown in the same place two years in a row. Certain plants use up specific minerals found in the soil, and by rotating crops, this can be avoided. Also, when the soil is plowed at the end of the year, the soil is added to by the old crops, and disease won't infest over the winter.
But how have pumpkins adapted to the habitat they live in? Click here.